Saturday, August 20, 2011

Armature for Tree of Life

I began work on the Tree of Life commission this week. The first thing that I did was use Photoshop to enlarge the drawing to full scale (36" wide by 37" high). I had to trim and print off pieces of the image, as paper is only 8-1/2" x 11". I put the separate images back together like a puzzle.

Then, I cleared a spot in the clay studio and started gathering everything together. I found a work stand of the right size for the project and cut pieces of plywood to make an approximation of how the granite base will hold the bronze tree. I didn't fasten the wood together at this point, as I want to build this base securely around the tree armature when it is almost finished.
I decided to use copper tubing for the main support inside the branches. I can bend it easily with a pipe bender (shown), making it possible to adjust at any time throughout the project.

The main support for the armature is a piece of galvanized pipe and a floor flange. It's position was carefully measured and marked onto the full scale template. I used a piece of cotton rope to find the length of each curving branch. That gave me the correct length for each piece of copper tubing. I kept bending and checking each piece against the template. When I finished one, I'd lay it on the drawing and begin the next.

When all of the branches were laid out correctly on the template, I used aluminum wire to fasten them together. I also twisted wire over all of the copper to give the clay something to hold onto, rather than smooth pipe.

I screwed the floor flange to the base board and fastened the plywood base around it. I used aluminum sheet for the radius of the notch for the tree roots. This gives a fairly precise approximation for matching up with the granite base at the end of the project.

Next, I made 61 leaves in aluminum wire and added them to the copper branches. It has a pretty cool look at this point (almost hate to cover it with clay).

This is the side view that shows the dimensional aspect to the tree. This will become more apparent as I start adding clay tomorrow.

The highlight of the week was the boat ride that our neighbor gave us - the most fun we've had in a while. He jokingly called it "The McMillen Wildlife Tour" as we saw: this deer calmly crossing Yellowbank creek in front of us...

...and these 3 baby raccoons bumbling along, looking for something to get into...

...a common sight of a Great Blue Heron...

...and the rare sight of this juvenile Bald Eagle at the mouth of the creek, where it meets the Ohio. etc. etc. (Meg took 273 pictures - all photos of wildlife copyright Meg White).

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